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Child's Imaginary Friend: Should You Be Worried About Your Toddler's Imaginary Friend?

Team AckoFeb 8, 2024

A toddler's imaginary friend is not just common but also something that often worries their parents, simply because this ''friend'' isn't real but imaginary. Your little one is growing up from being a little baby to a toddler. Your little one would be called a toddler once she is one year old. At this stage, your child would be very curious and would be ready to explore the world. Being a toddler, your little one would be trying to learn a lot of new things, she would try to be independent and would be curious about all the things around. 



When your toddler is around 2-3 years old, that is the time when she starts preschool, you would see a number of behavioral changes in her, some good, some bad, and some somewhere in between. Your little one would suddenly start using words, which were never used before, behave maturely, indulge in a lot of self-play, etc.

When we speak about self-play, it may be just playing with the toys around all by herself or you would observe your child playing with an imaginary friend of hers. This part of imagining a friend would sound a little scary to you as a parent. But this is a part of your child growing up, it is her curiosity which is getting built. 

Your toddler's imaginary friend: Why does your toddler imagine a friend?

You might wonder why your kid needs an imaginary friend when he has real people around. There are various reasons for that, some of them are listed below:

Enjoys company: 

Each stage would be different and a whole new experience. As your child starts preschool, she would be exposed to new things and the concept of friends. Your toddler would play with her friends at school and surely would be enjoying the company. 

As your child reaches home, she would miss her friends and her playmates. So, in order to have a company at home, your little one would start playing with her imaginary friends. This imaginary friend maybe someone she knows at school or in the neighborhood or a friend who is non-existent (straight from her dream world). The imaginary friend would change as per the mood of your toddler. This is perfectly normal and you need to just act as if the imaginary friend actually exists. This way you would encourage her to develop her imagination, which is a very important part of her mental growth. 

A sense of control: 

As a toddler who is just in the stage of growth, she would want to be independent and control all the things around. With real friends, there would be a possibility of a sharing a toy or disagreement during the playtime, but with an imaginary friend, all the decisions are taken by her. Your toddler would have the power and control of what to play and how to play. Hence, your child would enjoy such privilege of having complete control on the environment around her. 

Blame Game:

As kids, let us agree all of us would have done this, doing a mistake and blaming it on friends. This is one of the main reasons for your toddler having an imaginary friend. Your kiddo might find it easier to blame an imaginary friend who would not revolt or say anything to justify themselves. You would have observed when your little one falls down and when she starts crying, you would just pretend to hit the floor/table or anything against which she has hurt herself. This is just a way to console your crying baby. By doing this you are trying to shift the blame. This is what your kiddo will be doing with the imaginary friend too: Shifting the blame.

Constant companionship: 

Your child, though very small would have her own share of fears and apprehensions. An imaginary friend would be a way for your little one to feel secure and comfortable. Your child may feel brave with the company of the imaginary friend. She might say something like, “There is nothing to be afraid of the dark, there is nothing called a monster,” to her imaginary friend. Here, your child is not only telling this to her imaginary friend, she is telling the same thing to herself. This builds up the self-confidence of your child and she gets to overcome her fears. 

Playing with an equal:

As a parent, no matter how much you try to play with your little one, you still cannot match up with the energy level of your kiddo. This imaginary friend of your child would serve as the best partner who would run, jump and play the way she plays.

Your toddler's Imaginary friend – Is it Good or Bad? Should you be worried?

As a parent, it is very normal for you to wonder whether having an imaginary friend is good or bad for your kid. Most of the research done on this topic has shown positive results. The study shows that kids with an imaginary friend develop an active imagination, good vocabulary, are positive towards the society and are very good at self-play/independent play.

So, as a parent do welcome this stage of your child growing up positively and play your part. You do not worry too much about this, just relax and give a good ear to all your kiddo’s conversation. By this, your kiddo will feel that you are part of her pretend play. Try to get involved in her play and show excitement when she speaks about her imaginary friend. 

Last but not the least, you can enjoy her pretend play, but do not let the imaginary world to become more exciting than the real world. When you feel that her imaginary friend and play are taking too much of her time, distract her. Engage her in play with her real friends, by taking her over to their place or to public places like a play area or a library, etc. This keeps her hooked to the real world and at times she can enjoy her pretend play as well.

As time passes and she grows up, your little one will be so much engrossed in her studies, play and her school that slowly she would bid farewell to her imaginary friend and the imaginary world. 

Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only, based on industry experience and secondary sources. It is not a substitute for professional advice. Please consult a qualified expert for health or insurance-related decisions. Content is subject to change, refer to current policy wordings for specific ACKO details.



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